Mango and Red Onion Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

My favorite way to come up with a nightly special is to stroll through a market. I scour the aisles not just for what’s available but for what’s in absolute peak condition, crying out to be prepared and eaten within the next few hours. Were I to encounter a perfectly ripe mango, my inclination would be not to use it in a dessert, where most people expect to find fruit, but as an appetizer. Fruit salad has become an unfortunate icon of menus and recipes gone bad; think of all the processed or canned fruit salads you’ve been served. If you take the time to create your own fruit salad, making thoughtful decisions and enthusiastically celebrating the fruit, you upend convention. That’s what we’re doing here by combining ripe fruit with savory ingredients like onion, lime juice, and watercress. I’ve included a useful technique for dicing a mango, but if you prefer to simply peel, pit, and slice it, that’s fine, too.

This refreshing salad is a fine first course and is just as good as a side dish that makes grilled meat and fish come alive. Keep this in mind to serve with Mustard-Glazed Beef Short Ribs.


Nightly Specials

Sicilian-Style Citrus and Onion Salad: Red onion plays very well off citrus fruits. There’s a classic Sicilian salad of thinly sliced fennel, red onion, and blood oranges that’s simply dressed with a sprinkle of salt and a drop of extra virgin olive oil. Follow that by replacing the mangoes with 3 oranges, 4 nectarines, or 2 large grapefruit. Separate the fruit into sections rather than chop it and remove the seeds with a knife tip. In the summer, use peaches, nectarines, black plums, or figs. In the late summer, turn to half a honeydew melon, or half a cantaloupe, and if you like, toss in ½ cup diced Smithfield ham for a salty counterpoint. In the fall or winter, replace the mangoes with 4 ripe, sweet apples or Asian pears. Other tropical fruits work just as well in this recipe. Opt for papaya, sliced star fruit, sliced kiwi fruit, diced pineapple, or a combination, depending on what’s available. For a spicier salad, add 1 or more teaspoons seeded, minced jalapeno to the bowl along with the onion in step 2.

To make the salad more of a meal, add slices of half an avocado to each serving, slicing and fanning them out alongside or underneath the salad; slice up and toss in some cold, left over chicken or duck; top it with grilled chicken breast or grilled shrimp.

Serves4 to 6 as a salad or small meal



Total Timeunder 15 minutes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Courseappetizer, side dish

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, low carb, low cholesterol, peanut free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Mealbrunch, dinner, lunch


Taste and Texturecrisp, herby, hot & spicy, juicy, light, savory, sweet, tangy

Type of Dishfirst course salad, fruit, vegetable


  • 2 mangoes, preferably from Florida
  • ½ cup chopped watercress
  • 1 medium red Bermuda onion
  • 1 cup torn mesclun salad greens
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons honey, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced Fresno chile, or other hot red chile, optional


  1. Cut each mango in half, using the tip of your knife to cut around the large pit in the center, then twisting the halves to loosen and remove the pit. With the knife tip, make slashes through the pulp but not the skin. Cut again in the other direction to make crosshatch marks in the fruit. Push the skin of the fruit inside out so that the pulp projects outward. With a spoon, scoop the already-cut pulp into a bowl. Add the watercress to the bowl.

  2. Cut the onion in half lengthwise, peel it, and thinly slice from root to stem end in a fine julienne. Add it to the bowl with the mango. Add the greens, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently.

  3. Put the honey, oil, lime juice, basil, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and Fresno pepper, if using, in a small bowl and stir or whisk together. Season with salt, pepper, and more pepper flakes if desired. Pour this vinaigrette over the mango and onion.

  4. Divide the salad among 4 salad plates or pass family style from the center of the table as an appetizer or side dish.

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